Mark S. Luckie on How Black People Built Social Media

Conceptual Image Of Young Woman Using Social Media On Laptop With Holographic Icons Projected From Screen
Conceptual Image Of Young Woman Using Social Media On Laptop With Holographic Icons Projected From Screen

“God created black people and black people created style,” George C. Wolfe once wrote.

African-Americans heavily influence everything entertainment to political discourse to the culture and conversations that fuel the internet. And yet black users on social platforms are largely ignored by the companies who build them.

In an effort to drive growth, many social media companies make the mistake of exclusively courting brands and celebrities while ignoring influential black users. Vine is the latest casualty of this myopic trend.

Vine’s success was due in large part to black Viners like King Bach, Jerry Purpdrank, Simone Shepherd and Victor Pope, Jr. Around 2015, the company began to partner with talent agencies who saw the users’ meteoric rise as an opportunity to court a younger demographic. But by then it was too late. Vine stars abandoned the platform for Instagram where they could share longer video and grow a larger fan base. These new converts, along with millions of others, eventually made their way to Snapchat.

Snapchat’s growth was explosive. It ascended to 60 million daily active users in the U.S. and Canada since its founding five years ago. However, black people haven’t limited their impactful activity to one platform. An estimated 48 percent of online African-Americans use Instagram. “Black Tumblr,” an unofficial designation assigned to the community, is a cultural force.

When it launched, black users took to Periscope to showcase everything from protests to their everyday moments. Facebook, the platform that already includes 67 percent of online African Americans among its users, later debuted its Live feature. Periscope was speedily abandoned by these users. The company has grown considerably since its introduction but Facebook Live threatens to overtake it.

Anyone who’s been on Twitter for more than a minute has heard of “Black Twitter” or at the very least felt its effects. African-Americans drive a large share of the conversation on the platform. The early years of Twitter were characterized by hashtags, memes and conversations centered on black culture. Later in its existence, the rising voice of activists further catapulted Twitter’s permanence in the social sphere. In 2016, an estimated 28 percent of African-American internet users are on Twitter.

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Source: Black Voices | Mark S. Luckie